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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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The Expectation of Better

5 min read

This is a story about strategy...

Risk

We might say, unquestionably, our lives are better today than the lives of our grandparents; our quality of life is vastly better than when our grandparents were the same age we are today. Infant mortality and deaths in childbirth are vastly reduced, antibiotics and vaccines have virtually eradicated major diseases, food is abundant, high quality, tasty and nutritious, war is almost a forgotten memory; certainly the horrors of war are long forgotten... the proliferation of jingoistic moronic idiotic imbecilic poppy-shagging flag-shagging brain-dead meathead pillocks, is alarming, and those utterly brainless waste-of-space people think that war is glorious; they romanticise war.... however, there is only a tiny fraction of the war we once had, and that's a really good thing.

Thinking about things a bit more, however, we cannot say that universally life is better. It depends what you value. If you value a job for life, a good pension, community spirit, lifelong marriage, affordable housing, pleasant and rewarding work, beating your wife, beating your children, beating homosexuals, beating Black people, beating Brown people, imprisoning homosexuals, murdering criminals, oppressing women, murdering, beating, and oppressing the native inhabitants of the far reaches of Empire, and other 'old fashioned' values, as well as watching a substantial number of children die before reaching maturity, women dying in labour, masses of people dying from preventable diseases, shorter lifespans... if that sort of thing is more your cup of tea, then yes, maybe life has got worse.

We might consider, on a shorter timescale, whether our own life is getting better or worse. My own situation is mostly unchanged: I would have been able to afford an apartment in very central London as a twenty-something, and I could still afford that same apartment today, but it would swallow a larger proportion of my income, and I would have to cough up a larger chunk of my life savings as a deposit. We might consider the realistic prospect of me retiring: in my early twenties it looked likely that I would retire at age 50, in considerable comfort. Now, retirement at 75 would be possible. I suppose my options have not disappeared altogether, but I am a highly unusual individual; highly atypical.

Perhaps it is my expectations which are wrong?

No.

The range of my expectations includes committing a victimless crime - defrauding a bank or other parasitic organisation out of such a tiny fraction of their exorbitant profit that it wouldn't be missed by anybody - and either netting myself enough money to retire, or a custodial sentence to provide food and lodgings for the rest of my natural life: a win-win situation. At the bottom end, my expectations also include homelessness, and indeed sleeping rough, both of which I am all-too familiar with: they hold no surprises for me; I know what to expect. At the top end of my expectation range, there's nothing more than owning a dwelling of some kind, and having enough money to eat and pay the mandatory minimum bills... better than a prison cell or whatever shelter I could manage, sleeping rough.

This, again, is very atypical.

If we study most of humanity, we see that the strategy is very different. Most people are engaged in the bestial pursuit of making copies of their genes through offspring. Most people are in denial about the decline in living standards, and are attempting to use their sharp elbows to barge their way through the crowd, in the delusional belief that they'll be able to - through sheer willpower - bend reality to meet their psychotic hallucinations. "This will make for a great anecdote during your interview at The University of Oxford, dearest little Joshua" parents will be saying to their children, as they scavenge through a burnt-out supermarket in the shadow of derelict skyscrapers, unable and unwilling to ever accept that thrusting their progeny into the middle of the post-capitalist collapse of global civilisation, was perhaps the most stupid and selfish act ever committed by a supposedly sentient creature.

Conversely, you might think that I am stupid for not having children and shackling myself to a job that I hate for the rest of my life, in the hope of receiving a measly pension in the twilight years of my life, which I won't get to enjoy because of heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. I am prepared to consider that maybe it's me who's got things wrong. Except, you'll have lots of time to think about it, until your dementia sets in, whereas I won't have to think about it at all, because I'll be deliberately dead at my own hand, having avoided my own suffering, and having avoided inflicting life's suffering onto any innocent children.

These are not original ideas, of course, but we would be wise to consider the alternatives to what might appear, at first glance, to be the obvious answers.

 

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Minor Discomfort

4 min read

This is a story about unrealistic expectations...

Cleaning cupboard

I'm not sure where this 'unrealistic' thing came from. Realistically, we will succumb to a horrible disease, and then die. This much, our parents knew for certain when they decided to have children. Realistically, our parents knowingly condemned us to a life of deprivation and want; disease and death. Realistically, our expectation should be to die in fear, agony and discomfort, after struggle and suffering.

Is there any point in counting our blessings? Why not count our curses? Either option is comparably meaningless as a mortal creature in a godless universe.

I wonder how frequently a minor inconvenience seems sufficient grounds for suicide, to me. Certainly in the past few years, I've been so consumed with horrendous anxiety over 'trivial' life events, that I've lived with near-constant suicidal depression. I've lost count of the number of times that I've promised myself that I'll end the suffering if a certain unfortunate event occurs. I've lost count of the number of times I've felt, for a moment, on a knife edge about to end my life, triggered by seemingly the most minor of things; the most inconsequential and hard to fathom, for those who aren't troubled with such extreme sensations.

It's hard to know if things are getting better or worse. Certainly, I overcame problems with moving house, potentially losing my income, some invasive background checks, plus the hurricane-strength headwinds of debt and other money worries, which completely eroded any hope and sense of wellbeing, constantly. I dealt with breakups, losing my cat, a car which had to be scrapped, another car which got crashed into, multiple organ failure... you know, that kind of stuff. Normal everyday ordinary kinda stuff.

I'm no fan of the contrived platitudes about counting blessings, or suchlike idiotic nonsense. However, it did occur to me that I'm grateful that, for example, I have no need to deal with doctors or dentists; I have no need to deal with solicitors; I have no need to deal, on the whole, with the general public. I suppose it's a somewhat charmed existence, certainly versus being one of the oft-mentioned starving African children, or indeed the one any only person on the entire planet who's got it worse than everybody else, and therefore by extension is the only person out of nearly 8 billion, who's legitimately entitled to complain or feel sorry for themselves: everyone else has to suck it up and "count their blessings".

I reserve the right. I reserve the right to complain. I reserve the right to feel sorry for myself. I reserve the right to kill myself, whenever I want. I reserve those rights.

It seems to me, that the only way that humanity's self-awareness can be balanced, along with the curse of intellect which allows the perception of the futility of existence, is with the ability to end one's own life. Sure, vast swathes of humanity are too stupid and ignorant to be cursed with the comprehension of the awfulness and meaningless of existence; afflicted by angst, ennui, anxiety, depression and other horrors visited upon those who are elevated above the level of rutting beasts. Sure, it would be soul-soothing to be swept up in the mass hysteria; too busily acting like a slug or a wasp, intent on passing on its genes, like a mindless beast... sure that would obviously be better, in terms of personal suffering, but it's unethical to knowingly inflict such awfulness on an innocent victim: namely those children who did not consent to be born, nor indeed should have been born into such a dreadful world. There is no excuse for the crime of bringing children into this world, to suffer and die afraid, in pain, after a life of struggle, discomfort and unmet want.

I suppose it's an incredibly unoriginal and banal observation, that organised religion provides a convenient but provably wrong fantasy for those who wish to justify and forgive their own wicked deeds. You might argue that morality is the sole preserve of organised religion, and in a way you are right: there are no supernatural entities who sit in judgement over any of us; there is no objective morality; everything is permissable, within the confines of the universal laws of physics.

So, in conclusion: commit suicide, or commit murder, or don't. Nobody gives a shit. Nothing matters. Life is meaningless and all human history will be obliterated such that any and all existence of humanity's existence will be utterly undetectable; totally and irretrievably destroyed.

 

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Dreading the Weekend

4 min read

This is a story about time as an enemy...

Clock

I suppose almost all of us live for the weekend, or the equivalent: the working week can't pass quick enough, and our precious leisure time doesn't last long enough. "Is it Monday morning already?" we ask ourselves rhetorically, with disappointment in our voices.

Not me.

Although Friday does hold a special significance for me, it is only that I have successfully completed another billable week, earning myself a chunk of cash, which takes me a step closer to financial security. Given the choice, I would work 7 days a week, in order to achieve financial security 40% quicker. I do not look forward to the weekend, at all.

Of course, it doesn't help that my social isolation has increased, from one extreme to another: I never see another soul, at evenings and at weekends. The only people I see are strangers at the supermarket. The only words I exchange - in person - are with the cashier at the checkout. Given that I shop for food roughly every three weeks, that's an existence which is more extreme than almost anybody on the planet. A goddam Tuareg in the Sahara sees more people than me; has more social contact. A goddam monk who's sworn an oath of silence has vastly more social contact than me.

could theoretically do something about it. For sure, I could join a book club; I could become a train spotter; I could develop an interest in ornithology; I could dress up as a superhero and go to comic conventions: the world is my oyster, but - so it would seem - I'm not seizing any of the infinite opportunities open to me, to build a real-world social network.

Why not?

Why am I not out there in the big wide world, making friends and meeting people?

I have, for example, deliberately decided to be single for a while. All of the COVID-19 stuff seemed to be making dating very complicated, what with various lockdowns and restrictions on the lives of single people, and besides, I wanted to lose some weight: restaurant meals and alcohol were never going to allow me to lose weight. Also, there's nothing quite as crazy-making as people. Recently, I was the victim of a tirade of abuse, for example, which was completely unprovoked; unjustified. I haven't got the time or the energy to be abused by nasty crazies. I really don't need my inbox brimming with hateful abuse, which bears no relation to anything I've ever said or done in my life. I'm quite glad to be able to ignore that kind of unjustified abuse, because I'm not looking for a girlfriend, or indeed trying to make any kind of connection with anybody: I'm just trying to survive the winter.

The hours pass painfully slowly. It would seem like any sensible person would do something, if they were suffering as badly as I claim to be, but it's not true: in my circumstances, you'd do the same thing... eyes on the prize. You too, would suffer in the short-term, even if it seemed unbearable, because you would also know that there's only one route ahead; only once choice, although it appears to completely ignorant idiots as if there are more choices. There are not. There are no other choices.

I look around at the options, and all I see is futility. I don't want to pretend that I believe in a sky monster. I don't want to pretend that I like Salsa dancing. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in trains. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in birds. I don't even want to pretend that I'm interesting in boring and unintelligent, unambitious provincial hicks, who've never travelled and experienced other cultures, with no aptitude for free thought and certainly no capacity to entertain the notion that life should be lived in a way which is dissimilar to that of slugs, wasps and other simple beasts, like the pram-faced breeders spewing out an endless stream of pink screaming flesh into a life of misery and disappointment.

Eyes on the prize: I'll never have enough money to live out my natural life at an acceptable standard of living, but mercifully I can choose the precise day of my death, to co-incide with both what is bearable, and what is affordable.

 

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Grind

4 min read

This is a story about wishing my life away...

Jeep

As a child I wanted to be a grown-up so that I could drive a car and buy whatever the heck I wanted; eat whatever I want; do whatever I want. Life has, in fact, kinda worked out for me in that regard. Life has, essentially, turned out to be everything I expected it to be. It really is child's play in fact, provided you stay true to your childish ambitions: I do, in fact, enjoy driving, expensive toys, eating whatever I want, and doing whatever I want.

I don't think I was ever so naïve as to think that things didn't have to be paid for. In fact, if there's one thing which has been front and centre of my mind, since the moment that consciousness sprang into my infant mind, it's that everything has to be paid for. You have to pay to play: I've always understood this.

As with childhood, I know that there's no other route to get where I want other than waiting. I had to wait until 17 years of age to get a full driving license, to enjoy the freedom of the road on my own. I had to wait for everything else I wanted too. I'm waiting now. My whole life is mostly waiting. Waiting for the stuff I want.

Older people, and particularly parents, are somewhat idiotic in telling children and younger people to not wish their lives away. It's moronic to tell somebody who has no freedom and cannot get what they want, that they should cherish a time of misery, suffering, deprivation and unmet want. What is there to cherish about being homeless? What is there to cherish about being hungry? What is there to cherish about having the world flaunt everything in your face, while you can only look on jealously? What is there to cherish about the impotence of having your life controlled by others? What is there to cherish in the waiting?

I've often written about this, but if I could take a pill and wake up ten years from now with no memory of the intervening decade, but all of my earnings in the bank, of course I'd take it. There's nothing I want from the present. I only want the opportunities which money can buy, which are locked up in the future, with nothing but grinding standing in the way.

Grinding is a well-understood thing, amongst younger people. In the absence of any realistic prospect of being able to afford to buy a house and start a family, it seems obvious that virtual worlds would flourish. Starting with games like The Sims, and then the infamous World of Warcraft, there has been an enormous explosion in popularity of games which aren't won per se, but instead offer a virtual reality where achievement and progress are possible, in a way which is not possible in the real world. No amount of supermarket shelf stacking will enable a young person to escape from their socioeconomic predicament - their preordained doom - and as such, it's little wonder that their tiny amount of disposable income would be frittered away on virtual objects; purchasing power so inadequate as to acquire any of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as shelter.

The gamification of life is all-pervasive. School is not about learning, but about grades to get into university. University is not about learning, it's the only route into a career without a ludicrously low glass ceiling. Jobs are not about passion or vocation, but each one a means to an end: a stepping stone on a career path towards... towards what? Towards a pension, and death hopefully. At least, hopefully, a long, painful, uncomfortable, illness-ridden, but not impoverished retirement, hopefully. At some point along the way, a partner will be acquired - whose looks and intelligence will be scored - and later there will be children who will also score points for their academic achievements. Everybody is keeping score.

The grind seems necessary, somehow. A means to an end, perhaps. Except, the summit is never reached. The goals are never achieved. There's no winning this game.

 

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Treatment for Social Jetlag

4 min read

This is a story about alarm clocks...

Kitchen garden

How many people start the day, jolted from their pleasant slumbers by their alarm clock, repeatedly pressing the snooze button because they want and need more sleep? Is it 50% of the world's population? Is it 75% of the world's population? Is it 95% of the world's population? Certainly, in Europe, North America, New Zealand, Australia - and a bunch of other 'westernised' societies - the figure will be exceedingly high. That's an incredible amount of unnecessary human misery and suffering, in my opinion. Why the hell is society functioning like that, with its most productive members so exhausted?

I do not subscribe to the rat race, insofar as accepting that social jetlag is an inevitable part of the prime years of my life. I do not accept decades of torturous suffering. I refuse to be part of that.

Many years ago, I was unable to get out of bed, one morning. I lay in that bed for weeks, paralysed by depression. But, I don't think it was depression: it was my body's natural reaction to an abhorrent situation. Nobody should have to get up in the morning, against nature. It's unnatural. It's an offence to human existence. It's toxic to human health and wellbeing. No. No way. Not doing it.

But.

It's almost impossible to fight against the established order of society. Even though almost everybody is exhausted and socially jetlagged, because of the rat race, nobody wants to flinch first; nobody wants to be the person who gives up, lest other eager competitors steal their place in the rat race.

In an arms race, eventually, the only outcome is the destruction of human civilisation. This is the point that we've arrived at: life has become uncivilised in the extreme.

So.

What are we going to do about it?

Let me tell you a little bit about my life. I go to bed at the same time every night, and I always fall asleep quickly. Then, I always wake up before I need to wake up. I never set an alarm clock. I'm never woken up unnaturally: I always wake up, doze peacefully a little longer, start thinking about my day, read a little news on my phone, then get up when I'm ready. I'm almost always among the first of my colleagues to start my working day. Sounds too good to be true? Well, yes, certainly this can't be achieved without a little cheating.

How do I cheat?

Well, that's really easy, so I'm not going to beat about the bush. The answer is obvious: sleep medication.

Yes, that's right, sleep medication is the obvious treatment for social jetlag.

Sleep medication.

It's that simple.

There are two problems: firstly, your doctor will not give you any effective sleep medication, because otherwise society would be a happier, better rested, and a less miserable torturous place, and we couldn't possibly have that, could we?!?! Secondly, getting a great night of sleep every night, and waking up naturally every morning feeling refreshed, starting work early without need in alarm clock, is really great so it's hard to want to go back to being tired all the time, and hating every single morning when the alarm goes off. Obviously, you need a virtually unlimited supply of effective sleep medication, to last you until retirement.

Good news though: capitalism plans on continuing to manufacture goods and services, for as long as there's demand. Also good news: while you continue to be useful to capitalism, you will be given tokens which you can exchange for goods and services. More good news: while you have needs and valuable tokens, and capitalism produces goods and services, there will be people willing to facilitate the exchange of those tokens for the goods and services, in exchange for a profit margin. Good news all round: while capitalism demands that you get out of bed unnaturally early in the morning, there will be a plentiful supply of sleep medication, to allow you to cope with the social jetlag.

Of course, when capitalism collapses, I'm going to have some pretty bad insomnia, but maybe that's advantageous. When everybody else is sleeping, overcome by exhaustion, I'll have plenty of extra hours awake to scavenge the looted supermarkets for scraps.

Don't waste your time with your doctor: capitalism has already created efficient markets, where you can procure whatever you need at a highly competitive price.

 

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No Retreat

4 min read

This is a story about one-way streets...

Balcony

An important reason why people commit suicide, which demands further discussion, is the way that life is set up so that retreat is almost impossible. Nobody ever asks for a demotion. Nobody ever asks for a pay cut. Nobody ever wants to pull their kids out of private school to put them into state school. Nobody ever wants to cut off their kids' allowance, or stop paying into a savings account for their university education. Nobody ever wants to lose their trophy partner, because they can't afford to keep them in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Nobody wants to downsize or move in with family. It's all a one-way street.

Taken in aggregate, a small bump in the road can easily be understood as something which would prompt somebody to commit suicide. While you might say to somebody who's lost their job "just get another job" it's actually much more complicated than that: most people are only one or two missed paycheques away from major financial difficulties. The whole house of cards can collapse very easily: everybody is leveraged to the max.

Of course, you might say that it's silly to get worked up about material things. "Of course" everyone would understand about having to sell the fancy car, not go on holiday, leave the fancy school, not buy the nice things, maybe not have the same opportunities. "Of course" so the saying goes "we've still got each other" except it doesn't work like that. When the money dries up, everyone fucks off, and then the vultures move in to pick any remaining flesh off the carcass.

Yes, we really do have to acknowledge that we all become highly leveraged such that relatively small problems are life-destroying, and as such, they are life-ending.

We humans are optimists by nature. We always assume that the stock market is going to keep going up, the housing market is going to keep going up, our salary is going to keep going up: everything must always go up, according to our human proclivity for optimism. It's not that people are stupid, although of course they are that too, but there's a fundamental hard-wired kind of specific stupidity I'm talking about: the tendency towards optimism, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we were beasts of pure reason and logic, we'd kill ourselves as soon as we grasped our situation: a life of pain, depression, anxiety, suffering, hard work and other unpleasantness, met with an inevitable death at the end. Why put yourself through that? Our self-preservation instincts have evolved to counteract our higher brain functions, lest our species die out, but still... why bother? It's completely illogical to live your life hoping for anything: death is inevitable; illness, pain and suffering is almost inevitable. Almost nobody dies "peacefully" in their sleep: decades of slow, painful and uncomfortable dying await us all.

Obviously, we hope to achieve symbolic immortality through our genes, passed on to our children. Or rather, our genes hope to be replicated. We are, after all, just a vessel for genes to reproduce themselves, and it would be foolish - an anthropocentric arrogant delusion of grandeur - to try to convince ourselves otherwise.

In the eternally optimistic quest for a "better life" we strive to get a bigger salary, bigger house, more attractive partner, as many kids as we can realistically feed and clothe... then we move onto status symbols, like university degrees, professional qualifications/certification, fancy cars, luxury holidays... still we are not satiated.

At some point, pretty early on in our life, we become locked into a certain destiny. Pretty much, once you've got kids, you are locked-into a certain kind of life: although you might fantasise about selling your house and living in a camper van, you never will, because you are locked in, in so many ways. Even if you're wealthy and single, you're never going to sell everything you own and become a homeless nomad. You might have gone off on a gap year, you predictable tedious middle-class wanker, but you know that any more gaps on your CV wouldn't look good on your otherwise unblemished career track-record.

Those who are unlucky enough to suffer a misfortune most often go one of two ways: they're kicked out of mainstream life, and must accept their plight trapped in the underclass forevermore, or they commit suicide. There's no other line of retreat; there's no way back, for those who err or suffer a misfortune.

This might seem like a bleak outlook, but you know it's true.

 

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An Essay on the Preoccupations of My Mind

5 min read

This is a story about a stream of consciousness...

Kitchen table

An alternative title for this essay which I considered was "why you shouldn't invite me to your WhatsApp group" which might have been very true, at one point in time, but I don't think is fair, true or accurate now, today. As the title suggests, I'm writing today very much in the vein of my usual stream of consciousness as I am wont to do. Of course, this writing style is heavily over-utilised by me, but I shall explain...

I've often written about the 'creative' process of mine. I put 'creative' in inverted commas, because obviously I'm not totally utterly ridiculously stupid: I do know that there's very little 'creative' about pouring out the contents of my mind onto a page. However, thinking of a topic to write about, choosing a photo, thinking of a title, thinking of an intro, and then churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of words on that topic... it's hard not to consider that a little bit creative. I am, after all, creating content for people to read. I am well aware, of course, that the content might not appear particularly good or interesting or original or indeed hard to create, but you try doing it every day for 5+ years and see how you get on.

Anyway, I have a list of writing prompts: things which I thought "I must write about this... soon" and then made a note of, so I didn't forget. I go to my list of writing prompts whenever I can't think of something to write about.

The list doesn't always work.

Today I went to my list, and I thought "there's nothing on the list that I want to write about today". So, what do I do when I don't want to write about anything on my list, and there's no other thing which I want to write about? Well, I write about writing, obviously. Sorry about that. Sorry about this. Sorry about everything.

Another part of my daily writing process, is as already described: I try to choose an appropriate photo. This photo choosing process has changed substantially since I cleaned up my laptop, such that I now have to choose the photo on my phone and send it over to my laptop for editing. I had become very used to searching through my photo library on my laptop; familiar with the chronology of the photos, so I could easily skip to certain points in time and find a particular image which I had in mind. Now, I'm using AI to search for particular things which are in the photo, in the hope of finding something which seems - to me - to be appropriate for my chosen subject.

real artist would keep their creative process mysterious, and create deliberate ambiguity, never correcting anybody on their ridiculously incorrect interpretations of the artworks. "I think the artist was trying to express the juxtaposition between man's fear of death, and the sublime beauty of delicate natural entities" some public schoolboy wanker art critic might say, talking about another public schoolboy wankstain's 'art', when they both know it's all just a stupid game everyone's playing instead of getting a real job, because they don't need jobs... their trust funds and family wealth mean they can waste eye-watering sums of money wafting around being "aesthetic" and otherwise not contributing to society.

Ah yes... I promised to let you know what's on my mind, didn't I.

Work is front and forefront of my mind. Hunger is a big part of my existence at the moment, as I'm on an extreme diet. I've been very tired and irritable, so I've been thinking a lot about how rude and impatient I've been with people; considering what damage might have been done, what repair needs to be done, and how I might better manage foul mood and suchlike in future. Various mundane things are on my mind, often: tax return, personal finances, cleaning the house, some correspondence I need to decide whether or not to deal with. I think about current affairs a lot, and I have a selfish reason for taking more of an interest with pandemic developments, because I plan on taking a holiday in the not-too-distant future. I sometimes worry about the damage inflicted on my house by my cats, which will need somewhat remediating next year, I imagine: some new carpet, a hole in the wall to plaster, plus some other bits to hide as best as I can, like clawed curtains. All pretty boring stuff.

I've over-shot my daily word count limit, which I've set for myself to stop myself from rambling interminably. It's a slippery slope: once I start writing thousands upon thousands of words every day, it makes it very difficult for any regular readers to get any sense of what I'm blathering on about.

Anyway, there it is: a brain dump, as best as I can manage within the word count limit I've set [but exceeded by 20% oops].

 

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Emotional Labour

5 min read

This is a story about being drained...

Building site

I suppose I made a mistake. I wrote that people who were reading my stuff about suicide should write to me. Many did, and I managed to respond to pretty much everybody - sorry if you're still waiting for a reply, but I will get to you - but it was a foolish thing to say. If had set anybody up to expect a reply, which I did try to avoid, but it might still have happened, then perhaps I could have been the difference between life and death. Obviously, anybody who wants to speak to a crisis counsellor just phones one of the very many well-funded crisis counselling phone lines, which are very well known and very well advertised. Obviously, anybody needing crisis counselling would just do that, however it was still infinitesimally a microscopically small subatomically remote improability, but still a non-zero probability that me being busy when somebody in crisis contacted me, could have been the difference between life and death.

This is what I'm thinking, now, with hindsight.

Anyway, whatever, the well-funded crisis counselling websites have moved in and flooded the zone, further shutting out anybody who wanted to actually have an honest conversation about suicide, and not be bombarded with the usual "don't do it! you've got so much to live for!" trite clichéd nonsense which I am legally required to say that You Should Totally Seek Help From The Professionals™.

It was foolish of me to think that I was serving my readers as well, when the numbers reached many thousands per day, versus back when it was a fraction of those numbers. It was arrogant to think I could stay on top of everything. Worse than arrogant, deluded, naïve or whatever, those well-funded crisis counselling organisations will say, predictably, that it's dangerous. "What about the starving Africans?" they will ask. Oh, well, not that... but predictable words along those kind of lines anyway.

Meanwhile, suicide rates continue to climb. People are as desperately depressed and anxious as ever, and the global economic situation worsens every day; debts spiral out of control, companies are laying vast numbers of people off, and there's no jobs. Anybody doing anything about that? No. It's business as usual.

I thought it would be useful to be honest with people, and so many people have written to me to tell me that they're glad that I've written what I have - that they were able to find some content which wasn't the usual "don't do it! you've got so much to live for!" - that I know that it's been a useful exercise, writing about suicide without the usual "don't do it!" bullcrap.

It turns out that it's quite hard work, corresponding around the clock, on top of a full-time job. I'm not complaining at all, but I set up this website expressly because it was so exhausting, corresponding with individuals. Like any good engineer, it seemed obvious that it was far more efficient to write things once in a place where any interested party would be able to read, instead of responding to countless individuals, who are all asking more-or-less the same stuff. It's far better that I should broadcast this stuff in a way where people can come and read it whenever they want - a one-stop repository with everything written down - than to suffer the exhaustion of individual correspondence.

I kinda forgot why I set this website up. I kinda got drawn back into talking to people individually, instead of ploughing that energy into a broadcast medium, which saves vast amounts of time and energy.

I did take a break from writing, because I feared that writing would cause me to endlessly ruminate on a static and unchanging situation, making it worse. That break from writing wasn't intended to be replaced with other writing - private writing - but it was. The need to write never went away.

I'm writing again, in case you hadn't noticed.

I'm writing, and that means that my writing energy goes into the pages of this website. I don't have much time or energy for other writing.

If you write to me, I will do my very best to read and respond. I do try to respond to everybody. It's very kind of you to write. Thank you for writing.

It was foolish of me to style myself as some kind of alternative to crisis counselling, although I don't think I ever did: I made it pretty damn clear that my inbox was open, only in as much one guy can handle on his own, and only in terms of being a non-judgemental silent ear; somebody who'd listen and not interrupt or tell you how to live your life. I can't quite remember how I positioned myself, but of course you can email me if you want or need to, and I'll do my best to get back to you, but no promises. Of course, it goes without saying that if you're in crisis You Should Totally Seek Help From The Professionals™.

 

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Raw Dogging Reality

4 min read

This is a story about taking the edge off...

Mulled cider

There's a popular meme which asks what's classy if you're rich, but trashy if you're poor. Among the answers is daytime drinking. Certainly, what gets classed as alcoholism for poor people, is just considered taking the edge off after a long hard day, for the wealthy.

Drinking and the United Kingdom go hand-in-hand. The weather is pretty atrocious for the majority of the year, and not in a Skandinavian way, with pretty snow and ice, but instead in a miserable grey-skied, drizzly rain kind of way. The UK doesn't get cosy during winter time, it just gets depressing. While the UK has a bad - but deserved - reputation for being the home of larger lout football hooligans, and horrendous rates of alcoholism, is it any wonder, considering the dreadful weather?

If we examine humanity's need for intoxication, we can see that it's well correlated with dreadful weather. The longer and more miserable the winter, the more people drink.

Looking at wider habits of intoxication, we can see that life is unbearable, for the majority of us, without something to take the edge off.

Why then do we fetishise brutal sobriety?

There's noting admirable about being teetotal. I've been teetotal for a month and a half, and I doesn't make me morally superior. I'm not a better person, just because I'm not imbibing alcohol. The only reason not to drink is pure vanity: that I'm dieting, and alcohol was contributing the vast majority of calories which I was consuming.

Without alcohol, I'm struggling. Without alcohol, I'm unstable and finding it almost impossible to plod along at snail's pace, bored out of my mind. I'm finding it impossible to get through the day: it's unbearably horrible.

I do not recommend experiencing raw unfiltered reality. It's awful.

Of course, nobody does experience raw unfiltered reality. Everyone drinks. Everyone smokes. Everyone pushes their buttons in some artificial way or another. Everyone takes medications. Everyone finds a way to artificially alter their brain.

I suppose that when I said we don't have the Scandinavian kind of cosiness, with warm sweaters, open fires, great central heating, insulated houses and snow outside, we do have a British kind of cosiness: country pubs, with lots of British beer. The Britons have always been big consumers of beer, and never moreso than during the dark, cold winter months. The British adapt to their miserable British winter weather, by retreating to the pub, and drinking more.

The idea that we should be able to maintain a certain constant level, in all areas of life, year-round, is complete insanity. Of course we need to sleep more when the days are shorter, the nights are longer, and it's colder. Of course, we need to be less active in the winter. Of course, we can't work the same hours. Of course, we can't go outside as much. Of course, we're going to eat and drink more. The seasons are not constant - there is summer and winter - and neither can we, as biological creatures, be constant either.

Doing a very extreme diet at the same time as being teetotal, coinciding with the clocks going back, the nights getting longer and the weather getting colder: this is something which is awful to experience, raw and unfiltered. I'm tired, hungry, cold, and I'm hit with the full force of the horrendous anxiety which human existence induces. This world is fucking shit, to experience without anything to take the edge off.

While the whole world is drinking alcohol, smoking, taking tons of pills, drinking tea, coffee, energy drinks, eating super sugary foods, upregulating themselves with gym workouts and suchlike, and bombarding themselves with a ton of dopamine-inducing entertainment - film, TV, video games, news media, social media, internet, pornography - I'm struggling along, experiencing raw reality, which is truly terrible. Do not recommend. Stay with your trusty pills - you need them!

The phrase "raw dogging reality" is stolen from a Tweet I saw, but it very aptly sums up the horribleness of human existence, without pills, booze, drugs, cigarettes or any of the other vices which make life liveable.

 

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My Own Worst Enemy

4 min read

This is a story about self sabotage...

Bruise

Why can't I just keep my big mouth shut? Why can't I just smile and nod, and think of the money? Why can't I sit back, relax, and just take the money? Why can't I just focus on the money, and not worry about anything else? I'm getting paid, aren't I? That should be enough, shouldn't it?

No.

It's not enough.

Not for me, anyway.

Of course, when I've burned the bridge I will be filled with regret, remorse, shame and embarrassment. Of course, when I've burned the bridge I'll be depressed and anxious, and I'll wish I had kept my big mouth shut. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, I'll see that I threw away something really good; that I made a huge blunder.

All of this presupposes that I'm in possession of free will. All of this presupposes that I'm able to make choices.

I'm not able to choose.

Of course, if I could choose, I would switch off my brain and sit mute in my chair, collecting my paycheque. Of course, if I could choose, I would press the fast-forward button, and get myself to the point where I've collected all the money. In order to get the money, all I have to do is nothing. They're going to give me the money, but only on the proviso that I keep quiet. I'm going to get the money, but it comes with strings attached: I have to sit in my chair and keep my mouth shut.

Why can't I keep my mouth shut, and just think of the big fat paycheque?

I'm grappling with the idea that I'm not a very nice person. There are plenty of people with the same mental health problems as me - bipolar disorder, anxiety etc - and they're lovely perfect Jesus-like individuals who spread joy everywhere they go; infinitely charitable, kind, helping old ladies, sick animals, orphans, starving Africans and suchlike. Why am I such an asshole? I certainly can't blame my mental illness, because every other person on the whole wide entire planet with a mental illness is a saint who would make a nun blush with shame at their lack of piety.

For sure, having a mood disorder makes life in civilised society pretty challenging. For sure, being shackled to a rigid organisational structure, where everyone's expected to fit in or fuck off, is a massive problem when my mood is not stable like an ordinary person's. We all want to lie in bed with the curtains closed sometimes. We all want to go a bit crazy sometimes. Sure, you can say that it's incumbent on me to fight my mood, with willpower, mental strength, medication, or whatever it takes... or else fuck off and die in some dark dank hole. For sure, it's my problem, nobody else's. Everyone else is getting on with life, neatly compartmentalising themselves into their assigned slot; fitting in. What the hell gives me the right to be eccentric; different?

Aside from lying down on the floor and resigning myself to death by multiple organ failure, last Christmas, it shouldn't be understated just how hard I have been working to overcome my mood disorder, and to fit in. For the last three years, I've forced myself to battle through severe depression, social jetlag, overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks and suchlike, in order to keep working and rebuild my shattered finances. If I wasn't battling my mental illness, you can be certain that I would have been at home in bed, in a darkened room, instead of turning up at work, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

The other side of my mood disorder is mania, which I've employed to make myself incredibly productive. I can quite rightly feel proud of a lot of achievements during the past three years. My productivity has been sky-high.

High productivity has come at a high cost.

I'm crashing, predictably. I'm exhausted and irritable. I'm getting physically sick. I can't regulate my mood. I can't act appropriately; professionally. I'm losing it. I'm having a breakdown.

All of this was inevitable, sure, but I don't think it was avoidable.

 

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